Tosemaedan Groups Snub Mirwaiz, 'won't Tolerate Political Interference'

11 April 2014
Kashmir Despatch

Srinagar: Without naming the chairman of All Parties Hurriyat Conference Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who has called for a shutdown to protest the extension of Tosemaedan lease to army, various groups at the forefront of the campaign against the extension Friday said they 'will not tolerate political interference' into the issue. J &K Right To Information Movement and Toasmaidan Bachao Front will not allow any political party to play politics on the meadow that being used by army as a firing range since 1965. 'For more than 50 years no mainstream or separatist political party has come to our rescue but to our utter dismay political parties have now started playing politics with this sensitive issue,' chairman Tosamaidan Bachave Front Mohammed Maqbool Magray said. The meadow is not only famous as a pasture but also for its historical background. Bounded by dense forests, it is situated about 10 kms from Khag in the mountains of the Himalayan range. After crossing the upper mountain reaches of Drang, Zakhora and other small villages, one reaches the pasture. The development comes days after Mirwaiz's group published a detailed report on the meadow where many people have died due to littered shells and bullets. Mohammed Akram, who is the vice chairman TBF, said his group 'is purely a peoples movement and we will not tolerate any political interference in it'. He said: we have already announced to boycott political process till Tosemaedan lease is cancelled. 'The decision taken to withdraw firing range from the meadow in Central Kashmir's Budgam district and be developed as a tourist destination will be historical of this government after RTI legislation and Public Services Guarantee Act (PSGA) Act', Dr. Shaikh Ghulam Rasool, Chairman J&K RTI Movement, said. Reportedly the meadow is one of those pastures which the shepherds of other neighbouring countries also used to visit in ancient times. The Mughals used to go to Poonch using this route. It is said that they had constructed a seven-storeyed building ' Dam-Dam - in the meadow. Developing the meadow as tourist spot will contribute to the local economy and tourism industry as well, moreover the decision of shifting the firing range will prevent further human and environmental loss, Farooq Kuthoo, spokesman TBF, said. He appreciated the support of civil society and other social groups for extending their support. As we have stated time and again all the panchayat members of this area will resign if lease agreement is extended in favour of army, chairman Panchayat Association, Maqbool Ahmad said. He appreciated the role of media and J&K RTI Movement in bringing the issue in public domain. 'If the lease agreement is extended to the army for firing purposes the people from 52 villages of this area will have a sit in at the place of shelling. We demand complete shifting of this firing range from the government and we will continue our fight till the meadow is vacated,' general secretary of TBF, Mohammad Maqbool said. According to government sources in the past five decades, 63 people have been killed and many others disabled in several accidents related to littered shells. All the victims belong to the villages around the meadow. But according to locals 150 people have died, while hundreds others have been injured.